Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

Papers Contributed

A Grammar of the Language of Lobaha, Lepers' Island, New Hebrides, Melanesia

W. G. Ivens

THE island of the Northern New Hebrides which the French explorer Bougainville named Isle of Lepers is uow usually known as Oba (Omba), and to this the locative preposition a is prefixed, Aoba. One is inclined, however, to question the accuracy of the name Oba as applied to Lepers’ Island, since on Raga, the nearest island eastward, the name given to the island is Bai, A Bai. Also on Atchin and its neighbouring islets to the westward, off the coast of Malekula, places that had a considerable connection with Lepers’ Island for ceremonial as well as for trading purposes, Ba and Bai are the names by which it is known. Bishop Patteson, of the MM., who frequently visited the island, always wrote of it as Lepers’ Island. The later name of Opa given to it by members of the MM. would seem to be due to mission scholars from the island of Mota further north, where p replaces b, and the article o precedes the names of islands. This would point to Ba (Mba) being the name of the island.

Dr. R. H. Codrington published a grammar of the Oba language, using the dialect of that portion of the north coast of the island which is known as Walurigi. This grammar was founded principally on information derived from scholars from that part of the island in the MM. school at Norfolk Island.